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Want to Be Happy? Easy Steps to Improve Your Mood

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Friday, 20 September 2019 06:03 PM Current | Bio | Archive

Create Contentment: Taking Paths to Pleasure

We spend a lot of time as a society talking about how to be happy. A 2019 Travel+Leisure article lists the happiest U.S. cities. Topping that list is Plano, Texas, followed by Irvine, California and Madison, Wisconsin.

Wallethub.com ranked the cities within specific categories.

If you are most interested in emotional and physical health, head to San Jose, California.

Are you happier with a strong sense of community? Settle in Fremont, California.

If you are motivated by money, for a steady job and financial prosperity, pack your umbrella and head for Seattle, Washington.

But as much as we might like to manipulate happiness through geography, we are not lucky enough to have that type of control over our emotions. And in fact, the Travel+Leisure statistics demonstrate there is no steady rhyme or reason to the happiness meter.

Looking at the nation´s biggest cities, the article reveals how some of our major metropolises weigh in: San Francisco barely makes the top 10, Austin, Texas comes in at 14, San Diego at 18. Much farther down the list are other major hubs: Washington D.C. (51), Dallas (68), Atlanta (79), Los Angeles (82), and New York (90).

But regardless of where you live, there are definite ways to improve your mood.

Research ties happiness to several distinct factors, including friends, family, and fitness:

When Happiness Values Friends Over Finances

Do people with less money value friends more? Apparently, the answer might be yes. Ji-eun Shin et al. (2019) in "You Are My Happiness" used a free association task to investigate what words come to mind in response to considering the concept of happiness.

They found that the amount of social words, such as "love" and "family" provided in a link to happiness predicted the actual level of life satisfaction — although this association was moderated by perception of financial status.

Interestingly, they found the link between holding a socially oriented view of happiness and life satisfaction to be significant for members of low socioeconomic status (SES), but not members of high SES. They conclude that considering the overlap between social relationships and money, the social aspect of happiness appears to hold a more central role for individuals with less money.

Happiness is Relational

Swantje Mueller et al. (2019) note that research increasingly reveals a link between personality and enjoying social relationships.

Their investigation found that social interactions with others who are close were positively associated with a higher degree of momentary happiness, in addition to what the authors described as "higher levels of the target person’s extraversion, agreeableness, and conscientiousness, and lower neuroticism."

They note that people higher in neuroticism received more of a benefit from socializing with friends than did their less neurotic counterparts.

Still other research, recognizing the somewhat amorphous nature of happiness, revealed more specific emotional and social associations that link happiness to life satisfaction:

The Link Between Health and Happiness

One interesting study investigated the link between leisure time and happiness. Some might think such a link is obvious — who doesn´t enjoy free time? Apparently, the association might be more complicated. As it turns out, the link might depend on what exactly you are doing with your free time.

Allison Ross et al. (2019) in "The Association between Leisure Time Physical Activity and Happiness" found the link was mediated by perceived health. They specifically examined neighborhood physical activity.

The authors sought to build upon previous research suggesting that leisure time physical activity (LTPA) promotes happiness, by investigating how health indirectly impacts this relationship. They measured neighborhood LTPA because they recognize that most people engage in the most common types of LTPA, such as jogging or walking, within the vicinity of their residence.

Confirming their predictions, they found that neighborhood LTPA has the potential to create a subjective sense of happiness by promoting a perception of good health.

What Is Well-Rounded Contentment?

However we define it, happiness appears to be linked to a well-balanced life in terms of internal and external satisfaction. Friends, family, health, and wealth, all seem to play a part. Perhaps a winning strategy involves a bike ride or brisk walk with family or friends, which improves health but does not require wealth. Perhaps it is true that the best things in life are free.

This article was first published in Psychology Today.

Wendy L. Patrick is a career prosecutor, named the Ronald M. George Public Lawyer of the Year, and recognized by her peers as one of the Top Ten criminal attorneys in San Diego by the San Diego Daily Transcript. She has completed over 150 trials ranging from human trafficking, to domestic violence, to first-degree murder. She is President of the Association of Threat Assessment Professionals San Diego Chapter and an ATAP Certified Threat Manager. Dr. Patrick is a frequent media commentator with over 4,000 appearances including CNN, Fox News Channel, Newsmax, and many others. She is author of "Red Flags" (St. Martin´s Press), and co-author of the revised version of the New York Times bestseller "Reading People" (Random House). On a personal note, Dr. Patrick holds a purple belt in Shorin-Ryu karate, is a concert violinist with the La Jolla Symphony, and plays the electric violin with a rock band. To read more of her reports — Click Here Now.

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As much as we might like to manipulate happiness through geography, we are not lucky enough to have that type of control over our emotions. And in fact statistics demonstrate there is no steady rhyme or reason to the happiness meter.
leisure, lpta, ses
Friday, 20 September 2019 06:03 PM
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